Politics Allow Medicare to negotiate on behalf of patients to lower drug prices
Democrats seek narrow path to rein in cost of medicines
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden’s call for authorizing Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices has energized Democrats on a politically popular idea they've been pushing for nearly 20 years only to encounter frustration. But they still lack a clear path to enact legislation. That's because a small number of Democrats remain uneasy over government price curbs on pharmaceutical companies. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will need every Democratic vote in a narrowly divided Congress. Otherwise Democrats may have to settle for a compromise that stops short of their goal.
President Biden's speech announcing his American Families Plan reaffirmed his strong support for legislation to lower drug prices through Medicare negotiation. "Let's give Medicare the power to save hundreds of billions of dollars by negotiating lower drug prescription prices," he said. "Let's do it now."
President Biden is right. After nearly two decades of rising drug prices under a system in which drug corporations can dictate prices of brand-name drugs, Americans need the relief they have been promised.
Millions of patients need help - patients like 62-year-old Lucinda in Richmond, Vt., who has lived with rheumatoid arthritis since she was a teenager. To manage her symptoms, she was prescribed Simponi, methotrexate, and prednisone. The prices of these prescriptions have continued to increase each year since she was diagnosed as a teenager, coming to a total of $59,000 in 2019.
Democrats seek narrow path to rein in cost of medicines
At issue: A clause in the 2003 law that created Medicare's pharmacy benefit bars the government from interfering in price negotiations.But they still lack a clear path to enact legislation. That's because a few Democrats remain uneasy over government price curbs on pharmaceutical companies.
Lucinda's story is not unique. Patients For Affordable Drugs has collected tens of thousands ofwho are skipping doses, cutting pills in half, rationing insulin, or choosing between paying the bills and buying the drugs they need. Americans are paying almost four times what people in other wealthy nations pay for the exact same brand-name drugs. As the president said, the time to act is now.
Democrats in the House of Representatives aren't missing a beat. Last week, H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, was. This bill would allow Medicare to negotiate lower prices on behalf of all Americans, prevent price gouging, and direct more money to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for critical research to ensure innovation and new drug development.
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H.R. 3 would limit the annual out-of-pocket costs for Medicare beneficiaries to no more than $2,000, and would establish a top negotiated price for drugs at no more than 120 percent of the average of six other wealthy nations. The bill would penalize drug companies that increase prices faster than the rate of inflation.
The CEO of the trade association PhRMA recently. But it's Big Pharma that has been using patients and taxpayers as piggy banks, at will to fund profits and trigger executive bonuses. Pharma's chief lobbyist is right about one thing, however: America has other priorities. Every dollar we send to pharma in unjustified profits is a dollar we don't have to tackle health care disparities, provide coverage to the uninsured, or fund research into new medicines aimed at improving public health instead of private profits.
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H.R. 3 would support and protect innovation and new drug development by investing some of the expected savings into the world-class research funded through the NIH. The federal government is the primary source of basic research in biomedical sciences, and NIH funding is crucial to basic research that leads to the discovery of new drugs, as noted by the. The most innovative new drugs are coming from investment by taxpayers through the NIH.
Most urgently, people are dying right now because they can't afford the existing drugs they need.could die over the next decade because they cannot afford to pay for their prescriptions. If Medicare were empowered to directly negotiate prices with drug companies, there could be just because people would be able to afford their drugs.
The reforms in H.R. 3 are. Ninety-three percent of Americans agree that Medicare should have the power to negotiate with drug companies for lower prices. It's an issue that overwhelmingly unites Democrats, Republicans and independents.
Gillibrand touts legislation to lower drug costs: This idea 'is deeply bipartisan'
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) this week touted legislation aimed at lowering the cost of prescription drugs for Americans, calling it a "deeply bipartisan" issue.Gillbrand spoke in Syracuse touting a package of three bills intended to address high drug prices, saying Senate Democrats could pass the legislation if they reform the filibuster, NPR affiliate WRVO reported."I think this is an idea that is deeply bipartisan, 88 percent of Americans support it, so I hope we can get some bipartisan legislation passed. If not, if we do reform the filibuster, this could be included," Gillibrand said.
Congressional support is not far behind. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has made clear her intention to include H.R. 3 in the American Families Plan. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who chairs the Finance Committee that will advance drug price legislation, has made clear hisfor Medicare price negotiations.
We have an opportunity to, finally, make drug prices affordable if we stand with patients and stand up to Big Pharma. Now is the time for Congress to pass legislation that will deliver meaningful relief from high drug prices to the American people. With President Biden's support, this is the year we will lower drug prices for Americans struggling to afford their medications.
Congressman Peter Welch has served Vermont's at-large congressional district since 2007. David Mitchell is a cancer patient and founder of, the only national, bipartisan patient organization focused solely on policies to lower drug prices.
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